Black History: 1st African American judge to be elected to statewide office


    Morris Overstreet is the first African American judge to be elected to a statewide office. (ABC 7 Amarillo Darra Cunningham)<p>{/p}

    Determination is what pushed one local historian to the top of his career. Morris Overstreet is a historical figure who grew up on the north side of Amarillo. As a young man, he worked to overcome challenges in medicine before law.

    "It was a lot of push back for African Americans who wanted to go to medicine in Texas," said Overstreet. "I didn't have a tremendous amount of resources and by that I mean financially, as well as people who were in the profession who could advise me."

    After receiving push back, Overstreet was determined to walk in the footsteps of the man he admired, Psychologist Dr. Harry Edwards.

    "He was a noted sociologist so I said I'll change my major to sociology and then go to law school and change the world," said Overstreet.

    He then left medical school and started attending Texas Southern University's Thurgood Marshall School of Law but knew there would be other obstacles.

    "When I was licensed to practice law in 1975, there were no other African Americans practicing law in Amarillo," said Overstreet.

    But that did not deter Overstreet, he came back to Amarillo and worked as an Assistant District Attorney before passing the bar.

    In 1986, he became a judge for Potter Count Court at Law.

    "I saw the judiciary as an opportunity to level the playing field in Amarillo because the judges had a lot of authority," said Overstreet.

    Breaking barriers did not stop there, in 1990, he ran for election for the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and won. This made him the first African American judge elected to a statewide office in the state of Texas.

    Overstreet said he sees his accomplishments as inspiration to little kids.

    "Kids will know that if he can do it, I can do it too," said Overstreet.

    After serving his two terms as judge, Overstreet started teaching law in hopes of spreading his knowledge to law students and to continue to make an impact outside the courtroom.

    "Once you learn something and as you progress, you realize what this particular office holds and the impact that they make on the lives of regular folks," said Overstreet. "If that's something you want to do, think you can do it, then you do it, and I've always been that kind of person."

    Overstreet said he has always not only strived to take care of his family but also those in the community. Today, he works as the President of Warford Walker Mortuary, and when he needs to, he puts his lawyer hat back on from time-to-time to help others.


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